David and Jorden Doody . Image: Lia Crow3

David and Jorden Doody . Image: Lia Crow3

Making conversation

Collaborative husband-and-wife team creates art that speaks

  • Dec. 10, 2020 4:04 p.m.

-David Wylie

-Images: Lia Crowe

David and Jorden Doody are more than just collaborative artists—they are wife and husband, mother and father, intuition and structure. Their art and relationship are intertwined, a conversation between two artists who create as one.

They first met at Kelowna’s Hotel Eldorado in the summer of 2001. Jorden worked at the hotel as a housekeeper. David worked next door at Manteo Resort in parasailing. One momentous night, David went to the Eldorado bar with a friend; Jorden was there at a birthday party. When she walked up to the bar, near where he was sitting, David was paralyzed.

“We bumped into each other and had one of those classic love at first sight kind of stories,” said David. “We fell madly in love and within a month moved into an apartment that had very little furniture, and we lived on the floor.”

Neither had intended to stay long in Kelowna.

“We had both returned from elsewhere, being young ages of 19 and 20, and coming back to our hometown where our family was,” said Jorden.

The couple gelled and only a few months later planned to move to the Grand Caymans together. Two days before their flight on September 13, 2001, planes were grounded and delayed after the 9/11 attack in New York City.

Not long after, while still in Canada, they discovered they were going to have a baby.

That was 20 years ago. Now just entering their 40s, they’re still deeply invested and deeply passionate about their relationship.

“I don’t know if anybody else could do what we do if they weren’t madly in love with each other,” said Jorden.

The couple has always tried to work at the same place so they can spend all their time together.

“Art seems to be the language that we end up speaking with each other. So we make these crazy installations that really only we get because it’s a conversation between the two of us,” said David.

Still, they strive to make art that’s also accessible to those outside of their relationship. Using their different yet complementary styles, they add depth to their work.

“A lot of people find our work interesting because it is not just a conversation between one artist and the material at hand, with the viewer seeing the work afterwards. Our work is really a conversation between two separate artists [expressed] in the work itself. So there’s already a conversation that’s happening before it gets presented,” said David.

Added Jorden: “You can feel that there’s a masculine and a feminine perspective intertwined a lot of the time, depending on the work.”

Some of their pieces are developed over months, as the artists converse through their individual styles. Jorden has worked frequently in costuming and is comfortable with a variety of fabrics and materials to create touch and tactility. She’s free-flowing, creative and intuitive.

David’s energy gravitates to planning, architecture and space. He teaches sculpture and painting at UBC.

Together, they create art that’s worth venturing out to the gallery to see in person: tactile, textured, large-scale, exciting.

“The scope of our work is often larger than life. There’s a real kind of presence—you can feel it,” said David. “In order to get that experience, we really need to go big before we go home.”

While raising their children, the couple took the unorthodox path of attending art school, first at UBC in Kelowna, then Capilano University in Vancouver, and then on to Montreal—where David did his master’s degree at Concordia. The family immersed itself—including the kids— in the vibrant arts scene.

“It set the bar pretty high,” said Jorden.

They moved back to Kelowna three years ago, and Jorden has since completed her master’s degree at UBC. Still, they maintain a studio in “la belle province.”

“We’ve been in art school for 12 years,” said David with a laugh. In fact, they were the first collaborative team to graduate as a unit from UBC nearly a decade ago.

Having the influence of children around has also led to a playful feeling, as displayed in recent installations in the Okanagan. In Kelowna, I Must Be Streaming—exhibited at Kelowna Art Gallery until November 1— is a spacious, colourful display that incorporates a digital-age feel. In Vernon, Electric Sleep is a sculptural installation that uses re-purposed objects with sculptural elements juxtaposed with screen culture. It can be seen at the Vernon Public Art Gallery until December 22.

David has also been behind a mural project in Kelowna’s Rutland area that will add a dozen public art pieces by artists from all over Canada, and locally, by the end of the year.

“We’re injecting a lot of energy into the local art scene where we grew up,” said David.

The Doodys describe their work as optimistic—even if it is touching on darker topics. They don’t want people to feel confronted by the work, but rather be invited into it.

Their current work responds to the juxtaposition of staying grounded in the physical world while also existing in a digital realm. It’s a theme that hits home—although the couple grew up in a world where social media was not part of high-school life, their children have a different experience.

Their kids are now 18 and 15 years old, and have both found their own creative niches. Their elder offspring works in creative writing and poetry, as well as game design. Their younger child paints murals and helps with installations.

“Our kids have really had this super-cool opportunity to grow up in a studio environment with some of Canada’s best and most creative minds,” said David, adding they’ve spent time with poets, singers, designers and philosophers.

“Art and our relationship is a real reflection of our belief that it’s worth doing it, and it’s worth doing it well—whether that means having a relationship and being married, raising our kids, making a painting or making a sculpture. We believe that it’s valuable and it’s worth putting all of our life and energy into it. And we really do go all the way,” said David.

“Fully invested,” added Jorden.

Check out their art at twoartists.net.

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